TravelTraveler Magazine

Tips for Traveling to Bhutan

Early fall is a great time to visit Bhutan — a tiny Buddhist kingdom nestled in the Himalayas. But it’s hard to get to (with only a few flights to and from the country each day) and even harder to know what to expect.

I was lucky enough to make the trip to the famously happy nation last fall on a two-week trip with Boundless Journeys, and caught up with Joanne Bromwell, one of my travel companions, to see if we could come up with some advice to help you make the most of your time in this idyllic country.

Here’s our best advice (click through the photo gallery for additional tips):

1. Bring sun screen, and plenty of layers of clothing. Temperatures can vary dramatically between a morning hike at 10,000 feet, and an evening stroll in a lower-altitude valley. Bring altitude sickness medication, too.

2. Bring cash. Exchange it at the airport as there are no ATM machines and no way to use credit cards.

3. Admire the artistry, color, and workmanship of the Dzongs. Only skilled artists are allowed to paint religious murals in Bhutan’s holy places.

4. Bring a book — or Kindle, or iPod. It takes a long time for buses to navigate the windy mountain roads, and traveling from town to town can take hours. Don’t forget to ask your bus driver if he has some CDs of local music to play on the bus, too.

5. Get up early and walk to school with the local children. They are always happy to chat with a curious visitor.

Want to know more about Bhutan? Check out this photo gallery, or Costas Christ’s latest Tales from the Frontier column in National Geographic Traveler, “Happy Talk in Bhutan.”